Is this election really taking place and how?

Is this election really taking place and how?

Following President Tayyip Erdoğan’s remarks on Aug. 19 about Turkey swiftly heading for another election shortly after the one on June 7, the Supreme Election Board (YSK) sent a message to political parties on Aug. 20 suggesting Nov. 1 could be a suitable date for them to get ready for formalities.

That does not mean the election is going to take place on that date, it is up to the political authority to decide that, but at least there is a date to work on. That fits in the range of Oct. 25, Nov. 1 or Nov. 8 – all Sundays - which was suggested earlier by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. 

But a few hours after Erdoğan said Turkey was going to an election at once, Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), issued a strong statement in writing asking for a declaration of a state of emergency and martial law in certain provinces at once and to avoid the election because of the current security risks.

Martial law has not been demanded by politicians for a long time in Turkey, the last time being in 1978 after the incidents known as the “Kahramanmaraş massacre,” in which more than 100 people were killed in three days in the southern town. The martial law declared as a consequence of the killings would be lifted years after the military coup on Sept. 12, 1980. 

Spokespersons from both the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) criticized the MHP leader because of a lack of trust in politics. Yet, Bahçeli might have a point. There has been an unbelievable escalation of violence between the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkish security forces for almost a month in the mostly Kurdish populated towns of east and southeast Turkey. Travel is not safe between a number of cities and towns, with streets blocked by the PKK, which also tries to deny the entry of security forces into some towns by digging trenches and laying booby traps across roads. An election under those circumstances is a big question mark.

On the other hand, President Erdoğan sees the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) entry into parliament by exceeding the 10 percent threshold as the main reason the AK Parti lost its parliamentary majority, thus spoiling his calculations of exercising extensive executive powers if the country were to shift from a parliamentary model to a strong presidential model through a constitutional change. East and southeast Turkey are the locations of the HDP’s primary voter base. The collapse of the three-year-old dialogue between the government and the PKK, and also the de facto cease-fire, is not likely to boost sympathy towards the AK Parti in those regions anyway.

There is another question. All polls show the composition in the parliament will not change radically in the new election, thus not promising the AK Parti a government of its own, and of course ignoring the security situation in the regions of HDP vote concentration.

The popular issue nowadays in the political backstage is whether the AK Parti would invite the HDP into the interim government - which the CHP and MHP refused to take part in - to take the country to the reelection and which ministries should be given to whom in the HDP.

But first an answer has to be given to the bigger question of whether Erdoğan would prefer to go to an election under the circumstances or try to stick with the situation, relying on the MHP’s security concerns as long as he can.